Toyin Ojih Odutola Dismantles Power Structures in Striking Charcoal Drawings

As part of the U.S.-Nigerian artist’s “A Countervailing Theory” exhibition in London’s Barbican Centre.

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Toyin Ojih Odutola is a U.S.-Nigerian artist who creates socio-politically charged pieces using charcoal, white chalk and pastel on black backgrounds. Odutola is currently showcasing a new body of work in London’s Barbican Centre as part of a show titled “A Countervailing Theory.” The sprawling presentation features large-scale drawings portraying subservient men, fragile female babies and same-sex couples. With these works, the artist aims to shed light on existing power structures dominated by the white male patriarchy while challenging prevailing, conventional norms and expectations surrounding gender, race and sexuality.

“Ojih Odutola proposes speculative fictions, inviting the viewer to enter her vision of an uncannily familiar yet fantastical world. Working like an author or poet, she often spends months creating extensive imaginary narratives, which play out through a series of works to suggest a structure of episodes or chapters. Drawing on an eclectic range of references, from ancient history to popular culture to contemporary politics, Ojih Odutola encourages the viewer to piece together the fragments of the stories that she presents,” expressed Barbican in a statement.

The show’s title ”A Countervailing Theory” references a term used in political and economical verbiage to describe aspects of a power system in a capitalist democracy — that groups and interests wield equal powers and not one is strong enough to dominate all of the others. Odutola presents a total of 40 monochrome drawings that references this term first used by American economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Her compositions feature textured geological forms surrounding muscly, dramatic figures that represent underprivileged individuals and taboo subjects.

View select works in the slideshow above and then visit Barbican Centre’s website to learn more. “A Countervailing Theory” is on view through January 24, 2021.

Elsewhere in art, Yoko Ono is spearheading a new banner project called ‘DREAM TOGETHER’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Barbican Centre
Silk St, Barbican
London EC2Y 8DS
United Kingdom

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